And now for something completely different!
Write a story in which the setting is key
- Choose a setting for your story based on a real place that you know intimately. You can change details, of course, but this just makes it easier to summon up images in your mind. You can change it to be it futuristic, or historical, or on another planet, but base your buildings on building as you know, base the weather on whether you understand. Use your experiences to make this story shine.
- Sometimes we worry too much about plot and forget the story is NOT just about the things that are happening. A reader wants to be sucked into the story. They want to be able to see and feel everything the characters are seeing and feeling. Having a strong setting, a strong sense of where they are in space and time, can really help with this.
- In a short story we don’t have a lot of space. It’s important for every element of the story to serve multiple functions. Setting can provide atmosphere. It can echo or heightened emotions, and it can tell us a lot about the time, place, characters, and mood of your story.
- Think about your grandmother’s house and how it was decorated and furnished. Didn’t that tell you a lot about who you were going to find living in that house? Think about the houses in Architecture Digest magazine. Who would you expect to find living in one of those houses?
- Atmosphere, weather, climate, all of these things can enhance or echo your character’s situation and emotion. Storms speak of peril. Humidity makes things feel oppressive. If the trees are bare we know it’s winter.
- Simple details like whether or not there are weeds growing up through the paving can tell is a lot about the neighborhood in which your character finds themselves.
- Don’t worry about creating a complicated or original plot in this story. The exercise here is to practice using setting to enhance the simple story that you’re telling. Choose a character, give them a simple mission, and build the reader’s experience into a feast.
- Use all five senses. “Cinematic writing” can be good, but it means you’re only using your eyes. Use sounds to hear things, use the feel of things, the smell of things, the taste of things — even if the person isn’t eating, the tang of something-in-the-air can tell us whether we are near the sea, or near a decomposing body, or whatever it is that your story needs. Using all five senses will make your reader unable to separate themselves from the story, which is what you want.
Leave a comment and share what kind of setting you used. How’s the challenge going? Got any tips for the rest of us? Share them now!
24 thoughts on “Paint A Vivid Setting”
A story set some years ago in the slums of my hometown, Albany, NY. I could have done another Western, but figured it was time to get back in “gritty city” mode.
Here’s my attempt for today: https://fallonbrownwrites.wordpress.com/story-a-day-september-day-11-held-my-heart/
This house is actually based on the one I grew up in, though it’s been about 25 years since I’ve set foot inside it.
Requires a rewrite for sure – and I thought this would be a strength of mine. But this is another story I wondered if I could write one day! 😀
OK, this may not be what you had in mind, but here it is: https://storiesin5minutes.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/a-new-house-storyaday-post/
I loved this prompt. It gave me such a clear, sensory awareness of my character’s emotional state in a time of violation and determination.
Warning – this story deals with rape and its aftermath. NSFW.
A tad late, but this is my attempt at a “setting” story.
Not much to say except despite a rough writing day and a hard prompt for me I got something done.
So here’s my contribution today:
It’s short and light on the plot. However, as a bonus, the room described is in the apartment building on the left of the image in the header on my blog 🙂
I don’t think I’m particularly happy with this one, but there are a few good images in there.
Comment on prompt:I liked this Setting prompt. I wrote what I could, time and energy permitting, and then summarized some parts parts towards the end. I really want to work on this more, and like the idea of starting with a setting. I used a house that had meaning for me in the past, and went back and forth from then to now.
https://thethingsiyell.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/generations/ I tried to paint a picture.
I hope it follows the prompt.
These have been such great days!11 days of writing, every day. Thank you, Julie, for inspiring me. 🙂
I tried to make the setting the star, not my strong point.
Interesting prompt because I was able to take a setting I know and turn it a bit so that it became a piece of science fiction. Thank you.
Not sure I captured setting well, but I certainly gave it a go!
I think I’ve done better descriptive writing with other efforts, but this was a nice jaunt down memory lane. 🙂
Reading the instructions, I had an image of Parliament Hill at dawn pop into my head, so I went with it: https://only100words.xyz/2016/05/11/chance-encounter-on-parliament-hill/
Not sure I captured the setting well, but the story took a mind of its own: https://promptlywritten.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/charlies-find-flash-fiction/
This challenge has so far been really challenging and rewarding. I’ve written more new stories, and injected juice into old stories, than I have in a long time. This prompt was difficult, but not insurmountably so. I’m excited to see what the rest of the month brings! Here are snippets of all the stories I’ve worked on so far this month: http://wp.me/P45IPu-BM
I’m so happy to hear this. Glad to hear it’s going well and thanks for sharing.
This was a great prompt!
I imagined my Nan’s house which was really dark and spooky to me as a kid, and the story was just one little girl going to the loo and having to deal with a spider. It was great fun to write.
Thanks for the prompt!
Ha, it was worth it to revisit the terms “Nan” and “loo”, which I don’t get to hear very often these days 🙂